Retaliatory branding? Pourquoi pas?

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. A French vintner was frustrated with complaints that the wines of his region, Languedoc-Roussillon, were crap.  So he created “Le vin de merde” – shit or crap wine.  Apparently it’s not half bad, and that fly on the label adds that certain quelle heure est-il, non?

So the irony here is that the wine sold out almost immediately.  But I just love the connoisseurs in this video who taste the wine and pronounce it palatable.  Real French Joe Sixpacks.  And the slogan is nice too – “le pire . . . cache le meilleur” — the worst hides the best.  Hey, a votre santé!

Nothing new under the sun.

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, so excuse me if it’s not breaking news.  Am I the only geek who noticed that Home Depot’s slogan, “You can do it. We can help,” was long ago a slogan for Diet Pepsi?  And am I the only one who can still sing the Diet Pepsi jingle that used the slogan?  I can’t find musical evidence online, but here’s a UK quiz  showing how weak the slogan is there.

Lame name, unappealing concept

Meet Kraft’s new Bagel-fuls

        

Completely lame name, and from a trademark perspective it’s always risky to have a plural trademark that you’re compelled to use in the singular.  But that’s not important now.  Rather, let me thrill you with Kraft’s own description of why the hell anyone would want cream-cheese stuffed bagel tubes: “Bagel-fuls are one example of how we are reframing our categories. Part of this strategy includes making our products more relevant by understanding key consumer trends, like quick meals – and their impact on our business.”  Color me ignorant, I just thought food was there to sustain and nourish you.  Don’t get me wrong;  I confess to buying some packaged and portion-controlled foods for convenience’s sake along with the rest of America.  But somehow a food item that either appears to have had its genesis in a focus group or an inside joke or dare is just not that appealing to me.  And the visual of a woman delightedly consuming this decidedly non-bagel shaped product while another woman looks on with envy?  Yeah, I figured that one out too.  Suffice to say, when my husband and I saw this commercial our visceral response was “Ewwwwwwwwww.”  Your mileage may vary.

Is it hot or is it me?

Well, I’m not the only one to see that P&G’s new ad campaign for Secret has a lot going for it: “Because you’re hot” is one of the best double entendre taglines I’ve seen in advertising lately.  And “Flawless” is an outstanding mark, though I would caution the admakers against weakening it by using it in copy (e.g., “5 new facets of flawless performance.”)  And although the Secret website is clearly focusing on the younger market, I think it may be the older ones among us who get the bigger chuckle out of “because you’re hot.”  I know I do . . .

When the work is done for me

The commenters on this Jezebel post about Kate Moss’s new perfume Velvet Hour really say it all – except for the fact that it appears that an ill-advised layout can sabotage the impact of a good mark. 

Suggesting flatulence?  Not really the best idea for a fragrance ad.

Sublime and Ridiculous in One Convenient Location!!!!!!

Pedicure time!  And you know that means a hefty dose of magazines.  Hit the jackpot today reading Marie-Claire (not nearly as good as the original French magazine, but fine for my purposes) where I learned about Ralph Lauren’s new fragrance, Notorious.

                                                                                    

Evocative, sexy, brooding – just the right kind of name for a perfume.  And then, while researching Notorious, I found he’s also got one out called Pure Turquoise, which, IMHO is pure genius.  But then I learned more.

Here’s the deal.  I don’t for a moment begrudge Mr. Lifshitz’s having changed his surname.  I think “Lauren” balances out Ralph nicely, and the full name has obviously acquired tremendous cachet.  Certainly naming a perfume “Lauren” was a no-brainer.  But “Ralph” alone?  Sorry, not the equivalent of “Lauren.”  This is one case where the whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.  I’m at a loss to understand how a name that is slang for “vomit” can form the anchor of a line of perfume marks.  Yes, there’s not only Ralph, Ralph Hot and Ralph Wild, there’s also Ralph Rocks.                                                                                           


I’m all over vanity marks in the perfume biz – I see nothing wrong, for example, with Michael Kors naming his fragrance line Michael.  (A scent l can actually wear without succumbing to migraine, in fact.)  But that’s Michael, and not Ralph.  My guess here is that the Ralph Lauren brand has such cachet and draw for the young adult market that the slang meaning is irrelevant to the purchasing decision.  I can just envision that unfortunate conversation though:

    A:    What’s that perfume you’re wearing?
    B:    Ralph.  
    A:    That makes sense.
    B:    Why?
    A:    Because that’s what it makes me want to do. 

UPDATE: In discussing this post with my brother-in-law Paul, aka the Funniest Uncle on the Planet, we came to the horrifying realization that Ralph Rocks would be a great name for a brand of petrified vomit . . . that is, if such product existed.

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Fun fact: A family friend almost married the then-Mr. Lifshitz.  Her parents discouraged her, however, as he was in the shmatte business and they thought he wouldn’t amount to anything.  Oh well.

Touchdown!

Former NFL quarterback Drew Bledsoe . . . wait, did anyone ever think I’d begin a post with such words?  Well, never say never.  Bledsoe, now retired from football, has gone on to literally greener pastures, recently opening Doubleback Winery in Walla Walla.  I wish the winery great success, and commend them for selecting a terrific name – one that is evocative of both Bledsoe’s career and his return to his hometown.

Cheers!

H/T Catie at Through the Walla Walla Grape Vine.

Brevity: Not Just the Soul of Wit

I’ve recently noticed several businesses in our area that all seem to follow a similar naming convention: A single word name that’s suggestive of an element of the underlying business but not technically descriptive.  Here are my sightings: Sauce, a pizza/pasta joint (registered);  Splitz, a bowling center (registered);  and Squeeze, a smoothie bar (also registered).  (Full disclosure: I have eaten at Sauce and will definitely return!)

I like these names a lot, yet wondered whether the PTO had found any of them descriptive of the services.  A quick check of TDR for all of the marks indicated that all went straight through without objection.  That surprised me, because I cannot begin to count the times I’ve had to argue to the PTO that a particular term is not immediately descriptive of the goods or services at issue, but rather descriptive of some elemental function or feature of the product or service, consequently not descriptive to the consumer – and thus suggestive and registrable.  Sometimes I win, sometimes I get stuck with the Supplemental Register.  (Sometimes I even lose, but can’t bear to link to one of those.)  In any event, the fact that these three marks above were all registered without a hurdle reminds me again what a crapshoot the PTO game is. 

Meanwhile, bravo to these marks’ creators.

Updated: Duh.  I forgot about two local notables in this realm: Chipotle (now nationwide, got its start in Denver in 1993) and Garbanzo.  I am trying to provide sufficient substantiation so that I am not called out for a “bogus trend story.”

Destination: The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Well, I missed my 25th reunion but at least managed to get to Providence and Newport, RI, and Westport, MA, in the reunion year.  The girls and I enjoyed our friends’ 18th-century home, digging for horseshoe crabs and shells at the beach, and I tried to figure out how to get my body to handle humidity again.

Of course, there was a bit of touring.  Chief among the highlights on the trip was the excursion to Dartmouth, Mass., and the marvels of the Christmas Tree Shops store.  Any retail establishment with a slogan (registered!)like DON’T YOU JUST LOVE A BARGAIN? is a siren call to me, of course, but this one was junk shopping paradise.  Had I not been traveling carry-on only (after the Heathrow debacle of the spring, natch), it could’ve been a pricey trip.  As it was, I managed to spend $33, pass a delightful hour there, and come home with dish towels, potholders, paper lanterns, cocktail napkins, potentially counterfeit foam clogs for the other trademark lawyer in the family to examine, and a charming cow-shaped bag for stashing supermarket shopping bags, all cleverly secreted in my luggage.

But what I didn’t buy was so thrillingly emblematic of the store and its commitment to quality that I must share it:

                                                                                    

At only $1.99 it was so darn tempting, but I had to refrain.  The girls needed sweatshirts from Brown (yes, they now aspire to follow in Mom’s footsteps there, but I keep reminding them that knowing their multiplication tables will really go far to ensuring even initial consideration) and I just had a horror of checking baggage through O’Hare.  So the photographic memory will have to suffice.

But it wasn’t just shopping and wet towels.  The stroll down memory lane at Brown was thrilling (was it really that small?), and the visit to the Touro Synagogue in Newport moving, particularly George Washington’s assurances to the small congregation back in 1790 that the then-infant nation would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  Wise to remember that today.

Next stop: A return to Seattle!

Marketing 1, trademark lawyers 0

Introducing JetBlue’s new slogan: Happy Jetting!  With website sections titled “Are you a flyer or a jetter?” “The Rise of Jetting,” and statements like “JetBlue brings humanity back to the skies with a new form of aviation called ‘jetting,'” “Explore the many ways of jetting,” and a triumphant phallic-appearing announcement that “Today Jetting Rocks,” JetBlue is clearly trying to generate enthusiasm in a hungry, thirsty, crowded, tired, smelly and overcharged flying public. 

From a trademark perspective?  Not so much.  In fact, they’ve pretty much violated every rule in the Jessica Stone Levy book of trademark selection.  JetBlue has: (a) taken a colloquial term used in the English language by consumers of the services; (b) defined their view of “jetting” exhaustively in marketing materials;  and (c) used other formatives of the word (e.g., jetter).  If,  for example, a competitor were to use a slogan like “I jet around,” or “Jetting off to Cabo was never easier,” and JetBlue sued, I’d say those three actions above would be Exhibit A in that competitor’s defense.

This campaign reeks of the trademark-antithetical “branding initiative,” launched by marketers with little concern for the practical aspects of securing trademark registration and more importantly, of acquiring and enforcing trademark rights.  Paradoxically, after reviewing Jet Blue’s full website, I think the campaign is actually quite clever and entertaining, and if Jet Blue can be the rising tide to lift planes (?) in this horrible market, more power to them.  Just don’t think that you can then turn around and be a trademark bully with the trademark rights equivalent of a pair of batacas.